Saturday , 25 January 2020
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Public awareness on disasters found wanting



Although the state disaster management plan stresses on creating awareness in villages, schools and colleges,   it appears that no serious efforts have been made to educate the people on how to deal with calamities.

The role of different departments and agencies has been underlined in ‘pre-disaster’ chapter of the SDMP. However, the authorities have failed to carry out awareness programmes on how and where the locals from ‘disaster approaching’ areas should be shifted with their belongings.

The preface of the SDMP states that though Goa has not been struck by any major disaster, the state is vulnerable to natural calamities like floods, cyclonic storms, earthquakes, landslides, mining hazards and sea erosion.

Besides, the state is also at risk of manmade disasters like major fires, industrial accidents, terrorist attacks etc.

Moreover, it says that the  plan should be useful to tackle multi-hazard vulnerabilities to population, buildings, livestock,

crop area, industries, civil facilities and infrastructure.

The factors like ever-growing population, the vast disparities of income, rapid urbanisation, increasing industrialisation, development within high risk zones, environmental degradation, climate change, state and national security, economy and sustainable development should also be factored in while acting on the plan. 

The objective of the SDMP is to help the authorities initiate activities for prevention and preparedness, response operations, coordination, rehabilitation and community awareness and involvement. However, the state administration has not given a thought on appointing dedicated officers for creating awareness among the people.

A senior official in the administration says   that nodal agencies should take up the activities underlined in the plan by appointing special officials in talukas for educating the people on what they should do and what they should not do on disaster alert.

The officer feels that awareness should be created throughout the year, and not just during the monsoon, as climate changes have been throwing different challenges.

Hence special officers must be asked to visit villages, schools, colleges and other institutions for educating the people on safety aspects when a disaster approaches.

The people should be given out pamphlets that inform them on steps needed to be taken when a calamity strikes.

“The authorities should educate the people that when a calamity approaches they should carry their important documents, cash and personnel effects. The people should carry documents like Aadhar cards, ration cards, driving licences, election cards, ATM and PAN cards when moving to safety, as these documents will help them in claiming   compensation,” he explains.

The framework of the plan is based on the paradigm shift in disaster management from a relief-centric approach to a regime that anticipates the importance of preparedness, prevention and mitigation.

It is pertinent to note here that National Disaster Management Authority’s guidelines say that there is a need to form municipality and panchayet level disaster management plans.

But most of the local self-governing bodies have not drawn up the mandated plans, perhaps out of ignorance or apathy. 

The SDMP says that the talukas of Bicholim, Sattari, Ponda, Canacona and Sanguem are affected by floods, while the talukas of Pernem, Bardez, Tiswadi, Salcete, Mormugao and Canacona are affected by the erosion of coastal areas.

Moreover, due to the change in rain pattern, floods  have been witnessed in almost all the talukas in low-lying areas, khazan and agricultural lands.

Floods have also affected urban areas due to drainage congestion/encroachment of floodplain of rivers for various development activities and tidal variations.

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